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An index of posts describing the Forgotten Smugglers' Cave, an adventure for Holmes Basic characters levels 2-4.                    ...

Friday, March 23, 2012

Obscure Art Friday: Balrog by Greg Bell

"Balrog" by Greg Bell from pg 13 of Dungeons & Dragons, Vol 2, Monsters & Treasure

This picture of a Balrog is from the LBBs (aka OD&D), specifically Vol 2, Monsters & Treasure, pg 13. It's by Greg Bell, who did much of the artwork in the LBBs, including the original covers. The Balrog is flying, perhaps to attack, and is shrouded in faint flames (which did not reproduce well in the printed picture). Also note that he is wearing boots and a bracer.

I have a later (OCE) set of the LBBs, and I didn't realize until recently that this picture was is of a Balrog. But in the 1st through 5th printings, this picture was actually labeled "Balrog". It was followed on page 14 by the monster entry for Balrogs. In the 6th printing many Tolkien references were removed. The entry for Balrog was deleted and replaced by a cartoon by Tom Wham. This Balrog picture was left in, but the title "Balrog" was removed. Which is why this picture is missing a name unlike most of Bell's monsters.

For those who also have a later printing, I've created a Balrog Reference Sheet that lists all of the places where Balrog-related information was removed from the LBBs and Chainmail. It also lists the Balrog references in Greyhawk, but not Eldritch Wizardry, which fundamentally changed the original Balrog by turning it into a Type VI demon.

I've always considered Balrogs as part of D&D, as Holmes included two of the original references in the Blue Book. See my previous post Balrogs in the Blue Book for a description of these.

Possible inspiration for Bell's Balrog...?


  1. I'm willing to bet that that balrog began life as the Black Panther.

    1. Great lead!

      Perhaps the cover of Jungle Action #8, 1972 (see above)?

      If anyone finds anything closer, let me know. I just did a quick search of Jungle Action covers on Ebay (he had a recurring role in this comic in the mid-70s). He didn't get his own series until '77.

  2. A little bit of Nightwatch, a little bit of Kaine, a little bit of Spawn and a little bit of Devilman. :P

  3. Interesting post but most of Greg Bell's older stuff was pretty bad. I really think his artwork got much better a bit later like in the supplements.

    Cool info about the Balrog in D&D.

  4. Does anybody else see some of Kirby's Demon in that picture? The general pose and silhouette seem right for both Kirby's early 70s style (the character launched in 1972), and obviously that's the time frame leading up to the LBBs.

    And it's a tiny detail, but that little highlight squiggle down the leg of the boot seems très Kirby-ish.

    1. Thanks for the lead! I've never read The Demon, but I just did a Google image search and see the resemblance. The ear shapes seem similar, and the The Demon wears armbands and boots.